The first thing you should know about panic attacks is that you will mistake it for a heart attack.
Panic attacks increase your heart rate and may often be accompanied by heart palpitations. Alongside, you start feeling dizzy and light headed, with shortness of breath and numbness. But rest assured, this is not something related to the heart.
Often, people who get panic attacks for the first time end up going to the ER because they think they’re dying, and that’s a very good step. Going to the ER cannot only ensure you that you’re not having a heart attack; it can confirm your diagnosis that you may have just suffered through a panic attack.
So what’s the next step?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.7% of the adult population n the US suffers from some sort of panic disorder. Out of these, 1 million experience panic attack-like symptoms each month.
And if you’re one of them, you might want to start learning how to recognize the symptoms.
Let’s cross off all heart attack related symptoms first. Yes, you will have a fast heart rate, you will feel dizzy and light-headed, and have shortness of breath. But the one symptom that separates a heart attack from a panic attack is the feeling that you’ll die.
This isn’t a blunt statement though. For many people who have panic attacks, this is the scariest symptom of it all that gives you even more anxiety. This feeling (that you’re dying) can happen in the form of choking. The shortness of breath may become too extreme and you may start feeling like you can’t breathe, that your life is going to end.
While this may seem irrational, you are not being irrational to have such feelings. Panic attacks do feel like this and your fear is 100% valid. However, what you must also keep in mind is that you are not actually dying. Your body is making you feel this way, but you are not going anywhere. Your life is not ending.
So What Should I do?
Don’t fight it.
It’s understandable that you might fear not fighting even more. But the truth is, the more you fight, the more you’ll panic, and that anxiety will worsen the attack. Though this is easier said than done, it is effective. Once you recognize that you’re having a panic attack, go to a safe space where you won’t be disturbed. Take deep calming breaths and keep reminding yourself that this will pass, you are not done for. You will live.
Getting Help for Panic Attacks
Luckily, there are many sources that can help you with panic disorders and attacks. You may seek assistance from a doctor through cognitive behavioral therapy or even go to a professional if you seek psychological therapy.
You can also follow effective stress-coping strategies that can help you overcome your fear. Discipline yourself so when it’s necessary, you’ll know how to effectively deal with a panic attack.